Tag Archives: missional

Jesus is Enough. Mostly.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:15-20

centrality of Christ I had a conversation with a friend today about the place (or not) for marketing principles in the church. Not gonna get into all the various pros and cons in that discussion here. However, I do think there is (at least) one interesting dilemma any marketing professional might face in trying to help a given church with a marketing plan. I am not convinced all of us as church leaders even agree on what, exactly, our product is. That is a sad problem. But it is not a new problem. Paul addressed it in his writing. More than once.

The Colossian Paradox

After a (frankly) gushing introduction in his letter praising the little church at Colossae for its impressive faith and reliance on Jesus, Paul does something interesting: he reminds them of how important Jesus is. It almost feels out of place. He heaps the praises on them. You are faithful! You are on the right track! Being gospel-centered, you are getting it right and we have heard all about your impressive faith in Jesus! And then he launches into …

Does the Church Have a False View of Self?

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.  1 Timothy 1:15-16

eye in the mirrorDoes it matter whether or not Paul was in fact the “foremost sinner” before coming to Christ? Or, is the more important point that he perceived himself as such? Yeh, I think so too. It is the self-perception on this issue which matters most.

I think  two of the biggest problems for most Christ-followers today is (1) having a false sense of who God is, and (2) having a false sense of who we are without him. The gospel is difficult in the American culture because there are so many in this culture who, frankly, do not feel the need for a savior.  What’s worse, the church has become less effective as those of us in the church have tended to forget for ourselves just how desperately we need a savior. Still.

Churches, you see, can have a false sense of self just as well as individuals…we can actually stop remembering who we are without God. We can get so wrapped up in “doing church” that we lose sight of what matters most. Specifically, here are five ways I have seen us have a false sense of self…here are some lies we sometimes believe about our church:

1. We’re better because our music/preaching/buildings/programming/resources are better. Truth is, we are probably not better at all. But IF we are better, it is only because of the work of the Spirit among us. All the stuff we do…is just stuff. …

A Timely Haunting

Tuesday Re-mix:

Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.  Acts 11:20-21

In his book, Deep and Wide, Andy Stanley asks a question that has been haunting me for some time now: Who is church for?  Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?  Seems like we should be able to answer it without even flinching.  But it is killing me…haunting me.

It is killing me because I know the right answer: church is for the lost and broken world around us…it is God’s one and only plan for reaching, saving and healing that world.  Church, when all the programs and budgets and theological debates are done, is for that world.  That is painful for me to admit because, once I admit that, I know it means I must then look at everything I love and want and do in the church and ask myself whether it fits that purpose…whether it is designed to reach that world.  I think you know where that inquiry will lead.

But that question is killing me at an even deeper level yet.  It is causing me to examine my own heart and ask some troubling questions about my heart’s inclinations and leanings, especially where that lost and broken world is concerned.  With the Lord’s leadership, I have crafted an entire ministry around loving, encouraging and healing the church.  It is my passion.  So, it is easy for me to want church to be for church people…because they are my audience, my market, the purpose for my ministry.  I love pastors.  I love church leaders.  I love church people…and …

Every Day is a Church Start!

Tuesday Re-mix –

All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.
Acts 2:44-45

All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.  Acts 4:32-35

Here’s a test question for you as a church leader: which is more “successful”…ministering to the needs of 50,000 people by mobilizing 5 people…or ministering to the needs of only 500 people by mobilizing 500 people?

Some 15 to 20 years ago (suddenly feeling great surprise that it’s been that long now) my wife, our two little girls and I joined a small team of about 5 other families, all spending our Spring Break on mission in Ciudad Acuna, Mexico, doing Vacation Bible School at a small church there.  Over the ensuing 8 years, that same trip grew to become a church-wide Spring Break family mission trip of some 100-150 “missionaries” ranging in age from 6-months to 80-years.  We had medical mission teams, construction teams, music teams, drama groups, VBS on multiple sites, sports evangelism teams and even pastoral care teams.  We gathered everyone together at our campsite every night for worship and reporting.  As you might imagine, it was chaotic and fantastic all at the same time.  There was no childcare ministry…we all took care …

Leaders Unashamed

Tuesday Re-mix –

“If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”  Mark 8:38

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord… 2 Timothy 1:8

There is a lot of talk these days about “being the church” and about missional people and about moving “church” outside the walls of our church buildings.  I love all that talk.  I agree with it!  But sometimes it feels to me like a lot of talk but very little actual implementation.  Sometimes it feels to me like “the church” knows it should be moving in that direction but does not really want to move in that direction.  It is, after all, very different from what our traditional churches have grown comfortable becoming.

One of the “tweaks” I think might help us is to re-think our criteria for choosing leadership in the church.  Doesn’t our list of qualities for “leaders” among God’s people resemble pretty closely the qualities for leadership in the secular world?  We look for charisma, competence, a good track record, good communication skills, and then, of course, we add spiritual qualifications like prayer and discernment.  But would you also agree that, in most cases, we are looking for people who have “wowed” us with their presence and skills inside the church?  I do see the merit in that…in order for them to be influential among God’s people, they definitely must have a testimony  inside the church.  But if we are trying to shift our culture from being overly inward-focused to being more outward-focused, shouldn’t we be looking for leaders who already have that mindset?  If we are wanting to move toward “being the …

Sometimes the Only Thing Missing in Ministry is Jesus

Tuesday Re-mix –

When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” Luke 5:4-5

O.K., I know virtually nothing about the commercial fishing industry. I’ve never even seen an episode of The Deadliest Catch. And I certainly have very little knowledge of what that industry looked like 2000 years ago. I suspect that Peter and the guys had been through a very long, very hard night of tossing their tangled nets out and dragging them back in empty…I suspect that they were as skilled as anyone at this particular trade but that their very best and most strenuous efforts had been completely fruitless on this particular night…and I suspect they were exhausted and disappointed and frustrated. But that is all speculation on my part, because I don’t really know much about fishing. Nevertheless, I have a theory about what was going on in Peter’s mind when Jesus, the carpenter/teacher/NON-fisherman, wryly suggested that they pick up their nets and head out and try again one more time. I contend that what Peter was thinking in his head at that moment would NOT have made for good scripture.

Very much like Peter and James and John, we have developed some real expertise when it comes to “doing church”. Given hundreds of years to develop our systems and our understandings of scripture, we have a strong sense of what works and what does not work. We study our culture and think we’re pretty knowledgeable about the best ways to teach and to minister and to reach people. And when we set out to implement a ministry …

Busy Christians and Busybodies: How to be Thankful

Tuesday Re-mix –

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teachingyou received from us…We hear that some among you are idle. They are not busy; they are busybodies.  II Thessalonians 3:6, 11

The last time my studies took me into Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians, it was Thanksgiving time a couple of years ago.  I remember stopping and thinking about his counsel in those letters and how it might hit the contemporary American church.  I found some things for which I was thankful then, and I am still thankful today.  Today’s “Tuesday Re-mix” replays those Thanksgiving thoughts.

The American church is probably loaded to the brim with idle Christians.  We are a fat, happy bunch of church-goers for whom convenience is among the highest of values.  Prayer meeting on Wednesday night?  Not very convenient.  Sunday night worship service after a full day of church stuff?  Not very convenient.  Missing soccer games or band practice or sleeping in on Saturday in order to work at the homeless shelter?  Not very convenient.  Being the “consumers” we are, we just want our Spiritual lives to stay within the very small slice of our week which we have designated for that and, above all, we want God to stay convenient to us.

If Paul visited the American church today, I think he might just have a heart attack when he observed how low a priority our Spirituality has become in so many cases.  Don’t get me wrong.  There are many, many churches who are getting it right.  But let us be honest here, it has been about a hundred or so years since genuine revival swept across our country or since the American …

It’s Like Poking Possums

Tuesday Re-mix –

…the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Colossians 1:26-27

…for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

We have lots of “critters” come through our backyard.  Over the last 20 years or so, we’ve had raccoons, possums, coral snakes, skunks, and birds galore.  We even had a Road Runner hatched under our deck once (different story…maybe a future post).  In her younger days, Lacee (our Cocker Spaniel…no longer with us) would sometimes bring us “trophies” which she had caught.  And her favorite was always possums.

The thing about possums is that, when your dog brings you one and it looks lifeless enough, you can’t be too quick to judge.  There is a reason they call it “playing possum”.  You have to poke it a few times to see if it’s really dead.  Sometimes even that doesn’t work.  Then you have to leave it alone out on the patio for a few minutes and wait and see if it gets up and scurries off.  But if it’s still there the next morning, you can go ahead and dispose of it.  It’s dead.  Score one for Lacee.

In my church’s youth gatherings on Wednesday nights, they have been watching an Andy Stanley video series on what it means to be “fishers of men”.  At that same time, I’ve been spending time in one of my favorite passages: Colossians 1.  I have written about it in previous posts (e.g., here).  This is Paul’s very cool statement about “the great mystery …

Not for the Hope of Winning Heav’n…

Tuesday Re-mix –

My Eternal King

Original author unknown.  Translated from Latin to English by Edward Caswall, 1849.

 

My God, I love Thee;
not because I hope for heav’n thereby,
Nor yet because who love Thee not
Must die eternally.

Thou, O my Jesus, Thou didst me
Upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails, the nails and spear,
And manifold disgrace.

Why, then why, O blessed Jesus Christ,
Should I not love Thee well?
Not for the hope of winning heav’n,
Or of escaping hell;

Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward;
But as Thyself hast loved me,
O ever-loving Lord!

E’en so I love Thee, and will love,
And in Thy praise will sing;
Solely because Thou art my God,
And my Eternal King.

I have been taking a look  at four New Testament conversion experiences: Zaccheus’, Paul’s, Lydia’s and the Philippian jailer’s.  It was a Bible study exercise on living a missional life.  Having been raised in a denomination with heavy Puritan influences and which is therefore pretty single-mindedly focused on salvation, I am dumbfounded by this observation of these conversion experiences: none of them included any promise of heaven.  Here are four of the most well-known conversion experiences in the Bible, and every one of them happened without even discussing heaven or hell or the after-life.  All of these people were motivated only by the promise of Spiritual significance, i.e., spiritual meaning now as opposed to eternal life later.

Please do not misunderstand me here.  The Bible teaches us about heaven and hell and “after-life” consequences of the choices we make during life.  I don’t question that.  But I am beginning to question whether our obsession with the promise of heaven is a bit misplaced.  Jesus did not …

Missional Institutions v. Missional People

Tuesday Re-mix –

In The Gathering, we are going through the gospel of John.  It has been a wonderful study for us!  I still feel convicted when I really study Christ’s “missional” ways and his passion for people…ALL people.  It is just not possible to really come to an understanding of the Biblical Jesus without feeling moved toward people in need.

But even as we read convicting passages from God’s Word, many in my church will be thinking to themselves, “Our church needs to be about feeding hungry people and helping the homeless in our community…our church needs to continue clothing them and providing other help for them…this is something our church needs to do.” And those are good thoughts, but they are indicative of the institutional mindset which is keeping many of us from ever reaching our true Christian potential as individuals.

You see, there is more to the missional mindset than just becoming a missional institution.  The missional lifestyle is a lifestyle for each of us as individual Christians, whether or not our particular church is ever seen by its community as being missional.  The attitude at my own church provides a great example.  Not that long ago, my church was literally blazing trails in the area of social ministries.  We owned and operated a restaurant run almost entirely by volunteers, the profits from which went to feed people in our near-by soup kitchen.  We provided leadership in some of our community’s homeless shelters and clothes closets.  We had a strong presence in several of our city’s project housing complexes.  We provided Christmas meals to between 400 and 500 impoverished families each year.  In this area of social ministries, our institution was a well-run machine.

So, over the last 30 years, each of us as church …